it was maki who introduced me to that popular no-knead bread recipe; i enjoy a bit of mild pummeling, so it's not for me. it did get me thinking about bread making again, which i used to do on a fairly regular, fairly obsessive basis. i do bake bread occasionally, but have avoided the simplest, yet trickiest one for me: french-style baguettes. i could make very good ones, but the decade i spent away from regular bread baking has made me lose my touch. practice is all it really takes, but it really does take a lot of practice.
imho, the best dough for baguettes is the simplest: hard wheat flour, salt, yeast, water. obvs technique is the key. i still haven't perfected the richard bertinet kneading technique which calls for a wetter dough and a lighter touch, but i'm working on it. one of the things that bertinet recommends if you are a beginning bread baker is that one should try making little rolls or shapes instead of a whole loaf the first time. i was sceptical of this--i thought why not have one big failure instead of a dozen little ones?--but having done it, i concur with mr.b. the dough is easier to work and shape properly, the moisture in the bread dough is wicked away quicker in the smaller masses (which makes for a better crust and overall texture), and it takes less time to cook, for the anxious and excited amongst us.
around the same time i read maki's post, i read my cousin's post on a pandesal bakery in the manila 'burbs of marikina. supposedly they make "authentic" pandesal, which, as sassy says, could be the national bread of the philippines if the philippines had such a thing. the name literally translates to "bread of salt" (pan + de + sal), but almost every version i've had has been sweetish, not particularly salty, and frankly a little meh. neither here nor there--either too soft or too hard, too sweet or just bland. marketman lamented that true pandesal is difficult to find these days; the product of the 'fifties and 'sixties, according to marketman's sister, had a "hard crust, tender airy crumb and...It must have that distinctive crack down the middle." (i imagine that it probably tasted better too.) i found a photo of the pan de amerikana version, but it looks much like what can be found elsewhere. not as soft and spongy as commercial varieties have become, but my gut feeling is that it's not what the spanish or portuguese brought over back in the day. wiki saved the day with an excellent pandesal entry on the probable history complete with ingredients, which funnily enough are the basis for a good french baguette: hard wheat flour, water, yeast, salt. hm.
so, out came the pans and bowl. 500g of flour, 350g of water, 10ml of yeast, 10ml of salt. first, the yeast was dissolved in 100ml of water and left to bloom for 10 minutes. all ingredients then combined and kneaded to make a soft, elastic dough which should be allowed to double in a warm place. like guam, because it doesn't take an hour to do that. dough punched down, divided in half and formed into logs, which are cut with a sharp knife into equal pieces; each piece is placed cut side up on a baking sheet, and again, left to double.
a crispy crust that shatters is easy enough to get with a little steam during baking. the bread bakes in a 475˚F preheated oven--just slide the pans into the hot oven and use a spray gun filled with water to mist the sides of the oven and the tops of the bread with at least 10 squirts. close the oven door, leave for 5 minutes, then mist again. baked for another 15 minutes, the rolls should be golden brown, with a crunchy crust and tender, airy crumb.
hey it works :)
i don't actually know if this is really like the pandesal of the past so here are some questions for you, if you don't mind. has anyone out there tried traditional pandesal? does this look similar? and is it actually, um, salty in taste?
and for the french bread eaters out there, what is it that you look for in a good baguette?